How do your customers feel about the communications they receive from your business? Does it make them feel appreciated, cared for and valued?
Communication with your customers is vital, especially in an industry like travel where a purchase is often made for a product that will only be used at a future date. Keep your customers up to date with useful information about their travel trip and you can create a fantastic opportunity for engagement, but handled poorly it can create a negative impression of your brand.
The solution is in the context of your communication. What does the customer expect and how can you go beyond expectations to delight a customer with insightful communications that are within the context of what might be expected?
In their Magic Quadrant for Customer Communications Management Software the industry analyst research firm Gartner said: “By 2017, 70% of customer communications will be digital, contextualised and consumed on demand via multiple channels, including the web, mobile devices and social media.”
This is an important statistic to note. Almost three quarters of customer communications are expected to be digital, across multiple platforms including social media, but most importantly this communication is expected to be contextualised. Customers have an expectation today that if they have given you information about themselves and their preferences then you will only ever engage on appropriate subjects.
Customer communication has changed a lot in the past few years. It can easily be argued that a decade ago, most communications coming from the customer to a company were post-sale complaints or queries. The customer service function has matured a lot since the mobile Internet and social networks transformed the way that customers talk to their friends, family, and the brands they deal with.
This change in the way that people communicate with the companies they interact with has created a more emotional connection than has ever been seen before. Customers communicate with companies at all stages of the customer journey – from having the first knowledge of a product and asking questions about it to recommending the company to friends after a purchase is made.
The industry analyst Forrester believes that getting your customer communication right is vital because emotion is now the strongest driver of customer loyalty. In the Forrester Customer Experience Index they break down loyalty into three different categories:
- Retention loyalty, which means that your customers are more likely to stay with you;
- Enrichment loyalty, which means that your customers are more willing to buy incremental products and services from you; and,
- Advocacy loyalty, which means that your customers are more willing to recommend you.
These various types of loyalty drive revenue in different ways. Customers who are happy to recommend you to their friends and family are particularly important in markets like travel where a personal recommendation is worth more than any amount spent on advertising. In addition, it’s just as important to retain the customers you have and to use contextual communication to offer incremental services that are relevant and seen as helpful, rather than just a nuisance.
According to Customer Communication Insights, 27% of US adults are happy for their shopping history to be tracked and analysed by a retailer if it means their ongoing shopping experience can be personalised. In addition, 23% of US adults say that they would prefer to shop with a retailer that makes the effort to offer relevant experiences. Amazon perfectly demonstrate this.
The retail market has largely driven these customer expectations so far, but other industries have seen their customers change. Retail banking is suffering as Financial Technology (FinTech) companies build apps offering financial services, but designed from the start to be easy to use – that’s not what you can say about most financial services from banks. Finance, insurance, utilities and other industries are seeing that customer expectations are being changed by what they see in retail and this is largely driven by a desire for more relevant and contextual communication.
Travel more than any other industry, has a particular need to make communications more contextual because there is often a delay between purchase and the travel actually taking place. This is a great opportunity to engage with customers, but if contextual awareness is not applied to these communications than customers will see the emails and social media messages as little more than spam, useless at best and potentially annoying.
The opportunity for travel companies has never been greater. The business model lends itself perfectly to communicating with customers after a purchase, with incremental products such as travel insurance or car hire in addition to destination guides all being potential topics for discussion. Applying context to these customer conversations can truly make your brand shine in the eyes of the customer, because you will move from just making a sale to converting customers into advocates who tell their friends and family just how helpful you were.
Our innovative TravelComms travel communications platform does exactly this – enabling travel companies to create communications – engaging with each customer contextually and on an individual basis. Contact us and experience it for yourself.